Living Well With The Money You Have

Author and syndicated columnist offers straight forward financial advice for people looking to take control of their money

it comes to shopping. Many men abhor shopping. As a result, they minimize the time spent in malls.

Let’s look at how a lot of men shop. They decide what they want. They pick a day to go to the store. They go to the store. If they can, they park right outside the store to avoid having to trek through the mall. They buy only what they planned to purchase and leave immediately afterward. Their shopping trip is short and sweet.

Malls should be for shopping. Don’t hang out at the mall. Don’t meet your girlfriends there. Avoid, if you can, eating at the mall. Don’t window shop. Tell yourself you are on a mission.

I actually don’t enjoy shopping anymore, but I’ll be honest. This hasn’t always been the case. I once wrote a weekly column for the Baltimore Evening Sun called “Born to Shop.” I lived to find bargains. Shopping gave me a high. I once spent a solid month going back and forth to a store nearly every day waiting for a $200 sweater to go on sale. During each trip, I would take the sweater in my size and hide it among clothes on another rack so it couldn’t be sold. The sweater finally was reduced by 70%. Do you know I’ve worn that sweater all of three times in the 15 years I’ve had it?

At one time in my life, I thought bargain shopping was my God-given gift. I would actually have withdrawal pains if I went one weekend without shopping. However, I realized that every time I set foot in a mall, I came away with things I didn’t need and had no intention of buying. I often bought something just to make the trip worthwhile.

If you want to accumulate appreciating assets and not sweaters, you have to stop thinking you have discretionary income.

The key to cutting your spending is tuning out the marketing machine that tells us we need
to buy, buy, and buy. How can you avoid the advertising hype? Here’s how:

Remove yourself from temptation. Recovering alcoholics shouldn’t frequent bars nor should spendthrifts frequent malls.

Keep a spending journal. Whenever you’re tempted to go shopping, write down why before you go. Write down how it will make you feel to add more debt to your credit card. Write down what’s motivating you to spend the money. Are you stressed about something at work? Are your children getting on your last nerve? Has your spouse pissed you off? Putting your thoughts to paper has a way of making you think about your actions.

Tape your latest credit card statement to the inside of your journal. Maybe this will help you remember what it feels like to open that bill and see that bloated balance. Use this journal to also keep track of the money you spend for everyday purchases.

Ask why before you buy. Are you really going to use that bread maker? Look around your kitchen. Is that Crock-Pot you bought still in the box? (Mine is.)

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